Harrowing topics are dealt with passively, focusing on erstwhile horror tactics rather than addressing trauma with poignant action and thoughtful allegory.
After the passing of their parents, two children move in with their maternal grandparents and begin to believe there is something nefarious about their new caretakers. Let’s dig into 1988’s “Grandmother’s House”, directed by Peter Rader!
As I See It
The failings are easy to spot. There is no true tension built, beyond a dream from David, to show any threat of nefarious activity by the Grandparents. There are a lot of attempts at depth to the story but no follow through. Creating a cold war era landscape could have provided tons of nuance to building fear, but it was used only as window dressing.
Setting the story on a farm afforded opportunities for tricks like pies with questionable contents, or a laundry list of other close calls and hidden horror, yet it played no part.
The cast is criminally underutilized as the bulk of the story focuses on an unspoken tug of war between David and the Grandfather, to conceal a dead body that isn’t dead. A red herring of sorts, that turns into an emotional twist which castrates the sadistic climax.
The ending feels as though the filmmakers added it at the last second. It is so abstract, I would consider it an anti-McGuffin. It serves only itself and not the rest of the film. While it may explain their long thought dead Mother’s institutionalization, it only muddies the waters for the rest of the film.
Quite a long way to go to tell a story of incestuous rape with no substance or purpose. Narrowly presented for shock value.
Grandfather, nicknamed Spike, is played by Len Lesser who is best known as Uncle Leo on Seinfeld. Miraculously, he looks a minimum of 5 years older in this film, despite it being released three years before Seinfeld first aired.
Scream Goddess Brinke Stevens is the escaped mental patient, aka “Mom”. She’s been screaming her way into our hearts since The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) and still has a full slate of productions in various stages of completion.
Of Gratuitous Nature
Kenny, the future rapist and Lynn’s love interest, initiates their tryst in the most forceful of ways. Diving underwater to get an unapologetic look at her body and grabbing and kissing her without consent. Lynn eventually “falls” for Kenny voluntarily to no compliment of his personality, in what can only be considered irresponsible writing.
Brinke Stevens, although portraying a deranged character, has never looked better. She is provocatively mysterious.
Ripe for a Remake
Although two vastly different directions were taken, I immediately felt a similarity to M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit (2015). That comparison quickly eroded as Grandmother’s House unfolded, but it feels close enough to be repetitive. Not sure, unless it’s a practice in personal growth, anyone would want to tackle the exact content and behavioral maladies featured within.
No progeny to report.
Where to Watch
Connecticut based distributor Vinegar Syndrome released a DVD/Blu-ray in 2019.